Ever since the inception of the second biggest spectator sport in the United States, what drivers earned has been a closely guarded secret of both drivers and their teams. In an age where other sports make player salaries available to the public, NASCAR has bucked the trend in favor of a more gentlemanly agreement.
Speed’s lawsuit states he was to make $6.5 million from Red Bull for the remainder of his contract. Since Speed is considered a second tier racer in the Sprint Cup Series, you could infer that top tier NASCAR drivers are paid in the range of $10-15 million per year – ranking them among some of the wealthiest athletes in all of professional sports.
But the economy is even having an affect on NASCAR and now Speed is looking for a ride. He finished 30th in the NASCAR standings last year, -3,444 points behind Jimmie Johnson in the chase for the cup. He also racked up $3,723,240 in winnings.
"As if it wasn't difficult enough in the economy the way it is," Speed said. "You can talk to Jeff Gordon about that. When they're having not the easiest time in the world finding sponsors for Hendrick stuff, you know how tough it is for everyone else."
Finding a new deal for 2011 will be out of Speed’s control and he’s looking at all of his options, which include returning to open-wheel or even sports cars. He doesn’t want to do either, however, and is committed to keeping his status as a NASCAR driver.
He’s also committed to seeing this lawsuit out with Red Bull. He doesn’t want the suit to go to trial, but like he said – it may be a necessary evil.
"I really, really, really didn't want to be in a lawsuit right now," Speed said. "I think it's childish. This is ridiculous. There wasn't one single conversation from Austria to do anything. And if anyone else in the world thinks it's OK to keep me under contract all year ... I wasn't even allowed to go talk with other teams ... then I guess I'm wrong, but I don't think it is."